Yesterday, before leaving on the plane to go to Washington, Will had a session with his speech language pathologist (SLP). He was incredibly cooperative and because of such, Becca was able to evaluate him more fully than she has in the past. Based on what she saw combined with previous sessions and information she has gathered from us she believed she had a diagnosis for him. She instructed me to look up Childhood Speech Apraxia and read up on the descriptions and see how well it fit.
I felt like I was reading a book about my son.
I e-mailed her to let her know that I agreed with what she thought.
Will somehow has a disconnect from his brain to the muscles in his face/mouth that form to create words. He literally is unable to make speech. He understands everything you tell him and he has the words in his head but he can't express them. This oral-motor disability can range from mild to severe and it seems that Will is around a moderate case, but probably leaning more towards the moderate-mild end of the spectrum.
Some children never learn to speak and have to find alternate ways of communication. Other children learn to speak, but have very obvious issues. Some seem to speak with accents, impediments, or have problems gathering the words to create sentences. Then again, some children are able to speak normally and live normal lives.
Many children who do learn to speak continue to have difficulty with language and communication (and sometimes reading) for the remainder of their lives.
Will probably will have to attend some special education classes before school age to aid in his speech development. These classes may have to continue on through the years as well.
After receiving all this information I was crushed. There was a good deal of crying over my little boy.
But in a way I really felt a relief. There is a reason for his lack of speech. I can't tell you how many people have made comments like, "why aren't you working with him" and "don't you talk with him and read to him?" and other insensitive comments. Then I see other little kids his age having full-on conversations with their parents... why can't my son do that? It has been an internal emotional struggle for me... trying to communicate with my son. It was wonderful to have our SLP explain that this had nothing to do with my parenting. This is how William was created (by God, I believe).
Once I read about apraxia more things clicked. Will had always been a very quiet baby and didn't really babble. He drooled A LOT, even as he got older but learned to curb it before he was 1 year old. Even now he occassionally has issues with his drooling while drinking. In addition, Will has some other motor development issues which goes hand-in-hand with oral-motor apraxia (thus the reason for work with an Occupational Therapist and hippo-therapy).
Apraxia has nothing to do with his intelligence. That is a stressor to explain! Anybody who has spent time with William has discovered an incredibly smart and bright little boy. He is amazingly clever. Like I said before, he knows what words he wants to say, but he cannot say them.
For the time being we just have to encourage any form of communication we can at this time. He signs a few words and we have a magnet board with pictures of his common foods to choose between. The few sounds he does use for common words, like "yeah" and "kiki", need to be celebrated and have immediate responses to them.
And it should go without saying that I need to continue doing his lips, tongue, and cheek exercises.
Once learning all of this I was incredibly down. I fear my son will have to work very hard to do something many children find simple and normal. I can only pray that this will not impact the rest of his life.
I was discouraged.
Then I received an uplifting e-mail from our SPL this morning! She is encouraged by the amount of improvment Will has had since beginning his therapy. She believes that with continued speech therapy, work with an O.T., hippo-therapy and probably other classes, Will should be able to catch up to an adequate amount of speech, possibly normal, by the time to enter kindergarten.
Oh, how lightened my heart became. There is hope! It will be a difficult and hard road but I'm willing to take it on with my amazing little man.